Reviewed by Peggy Keogh
If you’re are a football fan, you won’t want to miss Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, now on display at the Virginia Historical Society. Our family is a sports-loving group. From the seventy-something grandparents (us) to the six offspring and eight (soon to be ten) grandchildren, nothing makes us happier than cheering on our favorite teams.
It follows then, as avid fans of the game for many decades, that my husband I were delighted when presented the opportunity to visit and review Gridiron Glory with four of our grandsons, ranging in age from nine to seventeen.
Initially, they were awed at the meager protection early players were provided, especially the leather helmets with no face masks and the pads that provided little relief from the impact of a hard hit. Films of some of the storied moments in football history and displays of actual jerseys, helmets and cleats of many of the famous players captured their attention. However, the unanimous choice when asked to describe their favorite part of the exhibit was the instant replay booth where they could view the play, select camera angles to replay it, and finally, make the call to either confirm or reverse the referee’s decision on the field. The 15-year-old was especially impressed with the pressure the officials feel to make the correct call, but amazed at the actual time and tools available to assist them. Perhaps none of us will be so quick to judge or contradict a review that does not go our team’s way. (Perhaps not.)
Our oldest grandson liked listening to coaches’ play calls through the microphone-equipped helmets as well as the replay booth. The 12-year-old enjoyed the hands-on football display which allows you to place your hands in the molds of quarterbacks like Warren Moon and Troy Aikman to see their respective grips. The size of Moon’s hands evoked wows from all of us. In addition to the replays, on which he proudly reported nearly 100% correct calls, our youngest grandfan and his grandfather especially liked the sport science exhibit, depicting the impact of technology and innovation on the game.
Given our proximity to Washington and the fact that the Redskins’ summer training camp is here in Richmond, it was not surprising (but fun) that this version of the traveling exhibit had a clear tilt toward attention to the Skins. For example, nineteen Redskins are in the hall of fame and legendary names like Baugh, Monk, Jurgensen, and Green dot the list. Cool.
We and our grandsons were also taken by the historical context of racial integration in football. In the seventies timeframe, only 20 perent of the NFL were African American, whereas today the number exceeds 70 percent. Our oldest (a rising senior at Godwin) was especially taken by the fact that the NFL integrated in 1946, a year before the much more heralded Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball.
The various sections of the exhibit are sprinkled with “Did you know?” questions and answers that are both informative and entertaining. Did you know that originally teams were provided three downs to make five yards for a first down? Did you know that originally a field goal was worth more points than a touchdown?
There is much to learn and just plain enjoy about Gridiron Glory. We spent an hour and a half engaging in fun discussion and interaction with four of our favorite fans. We highly recommend the experience to all football enthusiasts, especially those eight and above. The exhibit runs through September 4 at VHS.
Everyday admission to VHS is free, but Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a temporary ticketed exhibition. I recommend purchasing a family membership and receiving complimentary admission for special temporary exhibits. For tickets, info about membership, and more information, visit Virginia Historical Society.
Reviewed by Peggy Keogh, a wife, mother, grandmother, and sports-lover who lives in Midlothian with her husband, Hugh. When Peggy’s not supporting one of her grandkids (playing baseball, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, or soccer) from the bleachers or sidelines, she’s following her beloved Cavaliers’ pursuits. Peggy visited Gridiron Glory at Virginia Historical Society with her husband and four of her grandchildren.